Teach This Poem, though developed with a classroom in mind, can be easily adapted for remote learning, hybrid learning models, or in-person classes. Please see our suggestions for how to adapt this lesson for remote or blended learning. We have also noted suggestions when applicable and will continue to add to these suggestions online.

Featured Poem

Classroom Activities
  1. Warm-up: (free-write) Write about one way you think the world works. Why do you think that? If you feel comfortable, share with a partner. 
  2. Before Reading the Poem: Look closely at the image of a steel production site. What do you notice? What do you make of the excerpt from the caption, “Iron for our war machine?”
  3. Reading the Poem: Now, read the poem “Believing in Iron” by Yusef Komunyakaa silently. What do you notice about the poem? Annotate for any words or phrases that stand out to you or any questions you might have.
  4. Listening to the Poem (enlist two volunteers to read the poem aloud): Listen as the poem is read aloud twice, and write down any additional words and phrases that stand out to you. Or, you might opt to listen to the poet reading the poem here
  5. Small-group Discussion: Share what you noticed in the poem with a small group of students. Based on the details you just shared with your small group and the resource from the beginning of class, what does the speaker value or believe in? Why? How does this compare to the image from the beginning of class? 
  6. Whole-class Discussion: What is the contrast between the natural world and man-made items? How does this poem end? Why is that important? What does this poem have to say about violence? 
  7. Extension for Grades 7-8: At the beginning of class, you wrote about a way you think the world works. Write a poem or personal essay based on your thoughts. What can you learn from this? 
  8. Extension for Grades 9-12: Read poems for Veteran’s Day here. Choose one poet to research and read. After you read, discuss with your classmates how these poets depicted war.  


More Context for Teachers

“I’ve realized that as a young boy I was so enthused with the landscape around me because I was discovering something new every day. And maybe that’s why this whole journey with poetry still exists, this discovering of something new every day. Sometimes what we discover out there has to do with reflection that is internal, getting into that interior.” Read an interview with Yusef Komunyakaa on the question, “What is it to be an American?”

Poetry Glossary

A couplet is two successive lines of poetry. It can stand as an epigram­matic poem on its own, a weapon for aphoristic wit, or serve as an organizing pattern. Read more.